Cloud9 has long been North America’s shining light in the Counter-Strike world. The rosters have changed a lot over the years, but the organisation has almost always been at the top of the NA scene, and on more than a few occasions have managed to topple the best teams in the world and establish themselves as a top team worldwide. Long term fans will think back to 2015, when the likes of Ryan “fREAKAZOiD” Abadir were still in the team and managed to place in the top two in multiple finals. Whereas newer fans will think back just a few months to the team’s win at the ESL Pro League Season 4 finals.
But since that win Cloud9 has struggled somewhat. They didn’t make it to the ELEAGUE Major, giving them a big chunk of time with no official matches to play over the holiday period, and since then they have only played in a few events and haven’t looked as hot as they did at the back end of last year. Heading into the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice event few people expected them to make it out of the stacked Group B, but when things got started a surprise was in store.
Cloud9 went 2-0 in their first couple of matches in Katowice, beating SK gaming and Heroic, and sat atop of the group. All they would need was one win from their next three games and they would be guaranteed a spot in the quarter finals. Everything was looking good.
“I feel like we played those two first maps really confident and we knew what we were doing. We had a game plan,” said Mike “shroud” Grzesiek, one of the longest standing members of the team. “Then the third map came along against Virtus.Pro and everyone’s always, I guess, a little intimidated and scared when they play those guys, because they always beat us. We’ve never beat them. Well, we beat them maybe once, but in comparison to the twenty times that they’ve beaten us.”
Cloud9 lost hard to Virtus.Pro in their third game of the day. The final score ended at 16-4 to the Polish side, and Cloud9 never really looked like they were in the game. With only one win needed to make the quarterfinals many people still had faith, but this defeat impacted the team hard, and they never managed to recover losing their remaining games and missing out on the next stage of the competition. .
“After that game it just kind of spiraled down, it all went downhill,” said shroud. “We lost focus, and, you know, everyone just started getting tilted that we were losing.”
“Honestly, we didn’t really feel outplayed by anyone the whole time, except Virtus.Pro,” added Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert, another longstanding member of the team and one of the most experienced CS players in the world. “I think we should have won the North game and the NaVi game. Without going into too much detail about each of the losses, we essentially lost our focus.”
The losses were especially hard to take after their good start. After a lot of questions being raised about the team they went and beat SK Gaming and Heroic, without really looking too troubled by either of them. This silenced a lot of the team’s critics, but after the losses they quickly spoke up again, suggesting that a change of roster was in order. However it became clear during our interviews that right now the team is in a pretty good place, despite the lack of results.
“Right now everyone has different skillsets that work together” explained n0thing. “Mike [shroud] probably has the sharpest aim, probably. Stewie [Stewie2k] is probably the most well-rounded. Tim [autimatic] is really well thought-out player he might have the best fundamentals. Tyler’s obviously the best sniper on the team. I feel like I’m kind of a mix-match of a lot of things, so everyone’s got their strengths. Everyone’s talking potential changes, but a lot of people only look at the scoreboard.”
If anything the guys on Cloud9 are certainly confident of improving their results. Within 48 hours of their losses they had already identified the issues that cost them, mainly the mindset before and after the VP game, and were well on their way to fixing them. With a bit of a break in the LAN event calendar for the next few weeks the team returns to playing mostly NA teams, and they are always confident when playing teams in their own region.
“I think there’s teams that come close to us in North America, but I definitely do believe that we’re the best in the region,” said shroud. “If you were to compare us to anyone else, we definitely out match them, but they’re not that far behind. I think this whole player swap that they did kind of set them back a little bit, but they’re still good.”
Of course being good in NA is one thing, but doing it on an international level is another thing entirely, as the team knows. Typically Cloud9 have had waves of doing really well internationally, and then crash back down to the lower end of the standings, before finally creeping their way back up again. Missing out on the Major was a low point for them, but IEM Katowice seems to have been the start of another climb up the mountain. We asked if they could ever dominate the scene like the Fnatic did a while back, a feat that most teams would admit is near impossible these days, but not Cloud9.
“In our current roster, we would have to put in a lot of work, we’d probably have to work overtime,” says shroud. “But I think with our new coach it could be a possibility. I could see it happening. Before, we didn’t have a coach, but now we do and it’s helping a lot with our stress, helping a lot with our map pool. It’s just gonna take some time.”
It will be a long road for Cloud9 to make it back to the very top of the CS:GO world, but they certainly have the confidence and ability to do so. What really stood out when talking to them was just how much they believe in their team and their ability. Both n0thing and shroud genuinely seemed to believe that they can once again be one of the best teams in the world, and nothing is stopping them. That is providing shroud doesn’t go off and become a pro in another game.
“I think I spend the most time with Skadoodle, because me and him, we’re gamers,” says shroud when talking about his out of CS:GO activities. “We play everything. Meanwhile, everyone else like Stewie, and Jordan, and Tim they just play Counter-Strike. Strictly, Counter-Strike. When I’m with Tyler, we play everything. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there’s the, Players Unknown Battlegrounds, we have been playing that recently and we’re killing it. We’re killing it.”
“Are you gonna go pro in that, as well as CS:GO?” we ask.
“Oh, yeah,” jokes shroud. “ Yeah. Definitely”